For those of you who follow me on Twitter or read my post earlier this week, it likely comes as no surprise that, less than a week before Christmas, I’ve still got a few days left in my “12 days of shopping” blitz. So far, I’ve been more delighted than disappointed, even coming around the bend and into Christmas week—but crunch time is upon us and retailers are feeling the heat just as much as us last-minute shoppers.

The journey continues, and remember—especially my family and friends who are sitting high atop my to-be-completed Christmas list—this isn’t about procrastinating. This is all being done in the name of retail research.

Still, next year I’ll definitely start shopping earlier.

#christmasshopping day 4 (a day late!): @musiciansfriend is my friend “2 days left for FREE ground shipping” banner. Awesome! #bestpractice

Whereas part of me wants to scream, “I know! I’m late! No judgments!” every time I see a countdown, call out, or other time-limited offer, the reality is that the good ones are pretty great. Musician’s Friend has kept me and other last-minute shoppers up to date on just how dire our situation is via a banner at the top of its page. It’s updated daily, and what was once “2 days left for FREE ground shipping” quickly became “2 days left for 2-day express shipping.” A bar below the scrolling marquee drives its message home, linking to an entire holiday shipping schedule.

My takeaway? I have until noon on Monday—the day before Christmas Eve—to place my order and still have it wrapped and under the tree ahead of the big day.

Seeing that looming status bar with a prominent offer or light threat can compel the reluctant consumer to act. It’s the “speak now” of the retail world, using online call outs, email outreach, and social media extensions to gently coax the still-shopping out of their procrastination shells.

But not only are these time-sensitive offers and “last calls” essential for last-minute gift getters, they can also be a coup for savvy shoppers. These same drives to buy give the meticulously planned a license to comparison shop even after the Black Friday/Cyber Monday crush. As the banner on FreeShippingDay.com proclaims, “Once Again, Procrastination Pays Off.” And many times it does. It wasn’t until after Cyber Monday that Amazon launched its Top Holiday Deals page, adding daily discounts of 40 to almost 90 percent on a host of great gifts, from jewelry and watches to toys and games, apparel, home goods, and electronics. They’re keeping it going through Sunday, December 22, almost a full month after the purported best deals of the season came and went.

So, with just two days left, I took advantage of that free shipping offer. Although I could have waited it out, I would have lost out on the allure of something for nothing—and ‘tis the season, right? A #success for getting me to finally make the purchase.

#christmasshopping day 5: why #shoplocal on a #tablet? Select & purchase online while on biz trip #instorepickup #happywife

What else do I love this season? The small store penetration of the mainstream e-commerce market. Strolby  lets us stroll the ultracool streets of Brooklyn, browsing the boutiques and finding the most unique, incredibly well-priced one-of-kind gifts we crave, from homemade whoopie pies to flasks that attach to your bike. Pop Chart Lab  gets my inner hipster geek going with sleek, visual, highly researched prints, apparel, and housewares, each a conversation starter. Think “The Advance of Audio Apparatuses,” an oversized print featuring the 219 engines of “aural bliss” from 1840 to today, and even the “Grand Taxonomy of Rap Names.” Esoteric friends everywhere are giddy with glee—and now you don’t have to live in the Big Apple to get your hands on these goodies. They’re small, they’re powerful, and they’re doing it right. Big stores better watch out come 2014.

For me, the shop local trend is tied to one of my personal tried-and-true go-to’s: a small, stylish jewelry store in Los Altos. It’s been a favorite of mine for a long time, but I never thought to go to the store’s website. Why should I? It’s right there and I can walk in and walk out, purchase in hand. A shopping #success on the most basic, but most essential level.

But this year a hectic travel schedule and incredibly short window between Thanksgiving and Christmas left me wondering about the store’s online presence.

It was so cool. And I don’t use that review lightly.

They have one store but an incredible online storefront. For the loyal local customer, it’s an opportunity to take your time and browse through the inventory, ensuring that you’ve got a game plan when you walk in. It also fills those gifting gaps when you just can’t make it to the store. In my case, I ordered online and called to inquire about picking up my purchase in person. Hours later I drove up, popped in, and walked out with a beautifully wrapped box containing the perfect gift for my wife.

For me, this experience shed light on the need for a strong digital presence, even for local retailers. It ultimately boils down to casting the widest possible net—with loyalists, locals, newbies, and panicked December 23 shoppers. You, small businesses, can be their ultimate solution, not just by undercutting the big guy, but by being more nimble, more creative, and more in tune with everyone who comes through your e-commerce site. I love this jewelry store because it’s truly one of a kind. Pop Chart Lab prints aren’t likely to come out of a big box store any time soon. And, unless I’m in Bushwick, I’m not going to find that uber-microbrewed, locally sourced, small batch beer.

Offer me great shipping options including in-store pick up, push the envelope—and the drop-dead deadline for Christmas Eve delivery—and keep on touting what makes you special, and I’ll keep on buying. Until the very last minute. A #success for small business.

So no bah humbugs in this post, just a few new “brilliants.” Not surprisingly, though I’m not done yet—I’m shopping right up until December 24, of course. I’ll post my next few days of shopping soon and will keep on Tweeting right up until the last possible minute. Keep shopping, consumers. And retailers, don’t stop all the great testing and optimizing you’ve put into play this season. There are millions of last-minute shoppers who need your countdowns, your last-minute shipping deals, and your compelling reminders and recommendations to get to December 25. Don’t let them down.

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